Leaders today face tremendous challenges in the market, with their workforce, and in their workplace.
Market challenges include desperate competitors, low supply of raw materials or finished products, and increasingly demanding customers. Add to that the need for short-term profitability and long-term growth.
Workforce challenges include employee rights and difficulty finding qualified people. In many cases, leaders just can’t find enough people to fill vacated positions.
Workplace challenges include employees demanding to work remotely as well as the vaccination/no vaccination debate and its effect on culture, teamwork, and morale.
Leaders have plenty of difficult decisions to make and most deal with people.
Years ago when I was an executive officer for a company, we also faced difficult decisions around issues dealing with people. At a key decision-making meeting, the words of one of our board members gave us a riveting war analogy that has stayed with me for decades.
When addressing the senior leadership team, he said, “The true character of a company is measured by how its leaders bury their dead.”
As we were about to implement cutbacks in overhead, his statement provided advice on the importance of treating people with dignity and respect. It guided us senior managers to do the right things for the business and for the soon-to-be-departing employees. And we did.
Specifically, we developed a communication strategy up and down the organization to demonstrate the brutal facts of the current marketplace. We explained how we would maintain and grow our market share while addressing the necessary overhead reductions and other cost-saving measures.
How we treated those people who were departing served to frame the attitudes, commitment, and loyalty of those remaining. We acted as we were expected to act—with care and respect for our employees. Our actions preserved our culture and our basic business values. In return, we continued to receive defect-free quality products and reasonable shareholder returns.
With the many challenging decisions now facing you as a leader, I suggest you would benefit from this advice as well.
Always remember, the true character of a company is measured by the way in its leaders treat their people.